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no_self

no self

Mere suffering (Dukkha) exists, no sufferer is found; The deeds are, but no doer of the deeds is there; Nirvana is, but not the man that enters it; The path is, but no traveller on it is seen. (Vis. XVI, quoted Nyan. BD 12)

The teaching of no self is one of the most fundamental of the Buddha's teachings. suffering (Dukkha), the Buddha taught, is caused by our clinging to a self, an individuality]] that is illusory and does not exist. What 'self' is it that does not exist? It is not merely the personality, or ego, that identifies itself in terms of social role and interaction. Almost all religions know that self to be illusory. no self also includes the basic self of our physical being, including our human sexuality, the so-called 'soul' and various other levels of spiritual 'self'. The 'self' of cosmic consciousness that identifies with the universe–which the Hindus call atman–is also included. All those are mere attachment to illusion.

The Buddha declared:

O bhikkhus, when neither self nor anything pertaining to self can truly and really be found, this speculative view: “The universe is that Atman (Soul); I shall be that after death, permanent, abiding, everlasting, unChanging, and I shall exist as such for eternity”–is it not wholly and completely foolish?

(M I (PTS), p. 138, quoted in Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, p. 59)

Then the World-Honored One explained the instability of the self.

“Whatsoever is originated will be dissolved again. All worry about the self is vain; the self is like a mirage, and all the tribulations that touch it will pass away. They will vanish like a nightmare when the sleeper awakes.

“He who has awakened is freed from fear; he has become a Buddha; he knows the vanity of all his cares, his ambitions, and also of his pains.

“It easily happens that a man, when taking a bath, steps upon a wet rope and imagines that it is a snake. Horror will overcome him, and he will shake from fear, anticipating in his mind all the agonies caused by the serpent's venomous bite. What a relief does this man experience when he sees that the rope is no snake. The cause of his fright lies in his error, his ignorance, and his illusion. If the true nature of the rope is recognized, his peace of mind will come back to him; he will feel relieved; he will be joyful and happy.

“This is the state of mind of one who has recognized that there is no self, that the cause of all his troubles, cares, and vanities is a mirage, a shadow, and dream.”

(quoted in Lin Yutang. wisdom of India and China, ”Buddhism”.)

“If one says that one has a self-nature (an intrinsic nature of one's own), then one has an attachment. If one thinks that there is no self-nature, then one is without attachment. If one has attachment, then one still has afflictions and ignorance. If one doesn't have any attachments, then one is without afflictions and ignorance. If there are no attachments at all, then there is no place from which afflictions come forth and there is no ignorance. We say: 'Make the self empty;' 'originally there isn't any thing'. That's right, it is empty; however, one still exists as an individual. If one, in fact, exists here and now and speaks of being 'empty, empty', while still continuing to exist as an individual, then one is still here. One isn't empty.

“This teaching is to help people get rid of their attachments. Don't be attached to the existence of a self. If you're not, that is emptiness. However, this doesn't mean that your body will disappear, or that your fundamental nature will disappear. One's self-nature should disappear in the sense that it becomes the same substance as empty space. That is basically the way it should be. The fundamental nature is emptiness, and emptiness is the fundamental nature. But if one is still attached to the existence of a fundamental nature, then one cannot unite with empty space, because one has still not broken through that attachment. Why is it that the Buddha's body is like empty space? It is because he has no attachments. The Bodhisattva should also learn about this kind of state of the Buddha. Therefore, don't have any attachments. If one has attachments, then automatically one will give rise to ignorance and afflictions. If one has attachments, there is selfishness, and then one is bound to have afflictions. When one has no attachments and there is no self, then there is no selfishness and there are no afflictions. To be without any afflictions is to see the nature. Those who see the nature know no anxiety, they don't know the meaning of worry.” (FAS Ch22 141)

In his Treatise on consciousness-Only]] Tripitaka Master Xuan Zang concludes his review of arguments refuting the reality of self in this way:

The Truth is that each sentient being is a continuous physical and mental series which, by the force of vexing passions (klesa) and impure acts, turns from one state of existence (gati) to another in cycles of transmigration. Tormented by suffering (Dukkha) and disgusted with it, he seeks the attainment of Nirvana.

Hence we conclude that there is positively no real Atman; that there are only various consciousnesses]] which, since before the beginning of time, have followed one another, the subsequent one arising with the disappearance of the antecedent, and thus a continuous series of causes and effects (karmic seeds–actual Dharmas–karmic seeds) is formed; and that, by the perfuming energy (vasana) of false thinking, an image of a pseudo-Atman (of the likeness of an Atman) arises in the consciousness, and it is this pseudo-Atman which the ignorant take for a real Atman.

(CWSL, Wei Tat, tr. 27)


1) Chinese: wu wo , 2) Sanskrit: anatman, 3) Pali anatta, 4) Alternate

translations: selflessness, not-self, non-ego.

See Also: enlightenment, emptiness, attachment, Five Skandhas, Brahma net Sutra

BTTS References: FAS Ch22 141. . [1]


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no_self.txt · Last modified: 2018/02/26 18:12 (external edit)